Classic movie site with rare images, original ads, and behind-the-scenes photos, with informative and insightful commentary. We like to have fun with movies!
Archive and Links
Search Index Here

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Fox Does Comfort Westerns Wide

Edgy Ryan Lends Weight to The Proud Ones (1956)

Bloom had by now come off a rose that was Cinemascope, the process no longer a guarantor of grosses. The Proud Ones took profit in a year when many 20th Fox releases bled red, and did so perhaps for spending less ($1.4 million) and hewing to comfort western formula that was still a safest way to break even, whatever inroads television had made. It was typical at Fox to put contract youth, in this case Jeffrey Hunter, in support of outside names, Robert Ryan here, hope being that junior partners could move up eventually to leads. That had worked for 20th with Robert Wagner, but Hunter somehow lacked the luck, or was it skill?, to move up. He'd headline later, but elsewhere --- Universal with No Man Is An Island, Warners and Brainstorm. A really good performer like Robert Ryan could light up commonplace situations as in The Proud Ones, while at a same time prop up youngsters in audition for stardom. This had been routine since at least mid-30's merge of Fox with 20th Century, discards a Michael Whalen, here, Robert Lowery or Richard Greene there, though women tended to fare better, thanks perhaps to plethora of musicals at 20th. Jeffrey Hunter plays not an easy part on pretty much a single note, leaving it with Ryan to season the younger man's narrow interpretation of a hothead kid with a gun. Was it mid-fifties over-emphasis on bad juves that made cliche of delinquent types? Maybe this was Pat Boone's secret for equaling popularity of even Elvis at Fox, Pat a good lad and model for teens aspiring to be the same.

Ryan was the coiled spring of leading men. Romance did not become him for troubles that disqualified characters he'd play. Ryan in a fadeout clinch was seldom believable. Men he played were damaged starting out and generally got worse as they went. William Holden was often the establishment man with burdens a right woman, or flex of integrity, could overcome, but Ryan was too edgy to finish whole. Even if he survived an end title, you figure a next round would get him. The Set-Up was early career indicator of fates that awaited Robert Ryan. His was the loner with no welcome mat at doors. Something about his voice closed access by others. If Ryan's characters weren't angry, they were getting ready to be. He's the reason, maybe a sole one, to watch The Proud Ones.

For such tension he conveyed on screen, it's surprising how family-normal Ryan was in private life. I didn't know till recent that he co-founded a private school, Oakwood, still operating all these years later, in North Hollywood. First classes were conducted in Ryan's back yard while funds were raised to construct buildings, the actor guaranteeing necessary loans. Proud Ones co-star Virginia Mayo, a Warners borrow, spoke to television from 1956 vantage and said she'd not appear on the tube, a vow soon to topple as movie work tailed off and WB let her go. Within a year, there'd be a Conflict episode, then Wagon Train, The Loretta Young Show, Lux Playhouse, the rest. I'm hard pressed naming a star that didn't fall eventually to harvester that was TV, date and degree of capitulation being the only question.


Blogger William Lund said...

Robert Ryan was tortured soul of the big screen. Often he would associated with "Bad Day at Black Rock"s as the racist bad guy vs Spencer Tracy, but I liked him best in "On Dangerous Ground" as the burnt out cop who finds redemption through blind girl Ida Lupino. What a great actor!

9:22 AM  
Blogger Michael J. Hayde said...

Hunter's fate as "not much more than a pretty face" was sealed with the 1961 remake of KING OF KINGS... or, as it was known around the industry, "I Was a Teenage Jesus."

Ryan sure looks like he's channeling Gary Cooper in that top still with Hunter.


1:22 PM  
Blogger DBenson said...

A Robert Ryan oddity is "Captain Nemo and the Underwater City" (MGM, 1969). Ryan is Nemo, here a benevolent and avuncular dictator over a Disneyesque underwater city. He even gets sheep-eyed for a pretty widow, who survived a shipwreck with her small son, and courts her politely. His only moments of temper are when other shipwreck survivors try to escape, which might reveal his paradise to the outside world.

A strange film, sort of a last gasp at kiddie matinee fantasy, filmed in England on what looks like a nervous A budget. Sets and costumes are more Willie Wonka than steampunk, and the story is mostly -- but not completely -- scraped of grownup drama and issues. It doesn't work as prequel or sequel to Verne or any adaptation. A good rainy afternoon film, best prefaced with a cartoon and accompanied by movie snacks.

3:03 PM  
Blogger Bill Miller said...

In response to your statement that you are hard-pressed to name a star who did not eventually appear on television, I know of two. Spencer Tracy and Jennifer Jones were two stars who never acted, nor, far as I know, ever interviewed on television.

8:51 PM  
Blogger StevensScope said...

I never could get a liking for JEFF HUNTER. He nearly ruins THE SEARCHERS for me in an OBNOXIOUS performance. WHAT WAS HE (OR FORD) THINKING? AS for RYAN I always point to his remarkable EVIL Master-at Arms vs. Terrance Stamp's GOOD sailor in director Peter Ustinov's magnificent film in Black and White CINEMASCOPE :BILLY BUDD (1962). From THE PROUD ONES (1956)comparing JEFF HUNTER and ROBERT RYAN in scenes together again; this time, on the other side of the (Roman) Law later in the Sam Bronston EPIC KING OF KINGS (1961).

12:22 AM  
Blogger Mike Cline said...

Didn't Fess Parker want to do the Hunter role in THE SEARCHERS, but Uncle Walt shut that down?

7:05 AM  
Blogger MikeD said...

I was going to suggest Randolph Scott as a star who never appeared on TV but not sure if he counts due to retiring in 1961, which is in the middle of the classic film stars move to TV. I'm also not sure if appearing on 'Celebrity Golf' disqualifies him.

8:09 AM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

That's a great question about stars who didn't eventually appear on television. Hats off to Mr. Miller, who came up with two. I thought, "Aha! Charlie Chaplin!" ... and then I realized he was televised when he received his Oscar.

Greta Garbo? Does that count, or is that a foregone conclusion?

How about Clara Bow? I don't think she was ever on television, although she was a mystery voice on radio's "Truth or Consequences."

9:45 AM  
Blogger shiningcity said...

Don't know if there are any baseball aficionados on this site, but I always wished that Ryan would have played the baseball great, Ted Williams. Ryan had an uncanny resemblance to Ted and could have played him as angry as Ted was in real life.

10:17 AM  
Blogger Marc J. Hampton said...

Harder than i thought to come up with "never appeared on TV" stars from the Golden so many made appearances even if just for an interview or award acceptance.

Only two I can come up with...not yet mentioned... are Norma Shearer and Deanna Durbin. Do they even count? They retired in the 40s but indeed lived through a large chunk of the TV era...and avoided even a single TV interview (that I know of).

I was surprised to see Gable made TV appearances (the Oscars and Ed Sullivan)...I had no idea!

12:24 PM  
Blogger Filmfanman said...

I was going to say Jimmy Cagney, but it seems he was on "What's My Line" as a mystery guest.

1:31 PM  
Blogger Randy A. Riddle said...

Even Mae West, in the early 60s, appeared on "Red Skelton" and guested on an episode of "Mr. Ed".

7:29 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Craig Reardon shares fascinating info on Robert Ryan's Oakwood School:

Hi John,

I always enjoy your column and marvel at how you find enough fuel in Hollywood's 'classic' days to keep the fires burning at Greenbriar...yet, you always do.

Here's another personal note. I moved to North Hollywood in 1979, from Redondo Beach. I'd been fairly late to launch, living with my folks 'till I was 26. But work on a couple of earlier film projects finally gave me the wherewithal to act upon buying a house. I first bought one in Manhattan Beach, a nice tiny thing about six or seven blocks from the sea front. But, I got cold feet when at that point in time there was a huge fuel scare. Later to find out it was manipulated by the oil industry, for which I have no great respect. But it scared me enough to decide I'd made an error in locating my first dwelling so far from the sources of possible employment (the so-called South Bay area, vs further north and east in the mid San Fernando Valley area.) Hence, I sold the little house (and immediately made about $10K!---though I was chagrined to learn a few years ago the property is now worth about $2.5M!) and found another one on a cul de sac a bit west and across the 101 freeway from Universal Studios. The point of this is that there was a private school which literally backed up to Valley Spring Lane, that being the name of the street where I bought my new house ca. 1979. And, that private school was the original Oakwood. It wasn't for many years that I learned that Robert Ryan and his wife had started this school! I've been back to this neighborhood in years since I left it, 33 years ago in 1987, and I was amazed to see that the school had expanded backward (toward the street I mentioned in the residential area), and that there appeared to be more buildings, that were much more handsome than the simple structures that were there back when I lived there.

I recall my sadness upon learning when I arrived back home from a trip to London in 1973 that three prominent and beloved actors had died while I was gone. As the cliche goes, they go in threes. They were Lon Chaney Jr., Jack Hawkins...and Robert Ryan.


8:52 PM  
Blogger DBenson said...

I remember when Sebastian Cabot died, two other more prominent actors had passed in the previous few months and I saw the "go in threes" thing invoked in the newspapers. A little while later, a more famous actor passed and "go in threes' was invoked again -- with Cabot bumped for the bigger name. Not a huge Cabot fan, but thought it was kind of mean.

1:38 PM  
Blogger Mike Ballew said...

The notion that death "comes in threes" is such nonsense. There are (very sad) occasions when Wikipedia's "Recent Deaths" index will list four, five or six important names in a short span.

11:38 PM  
Blogger Marc J. Hampton said...

Movie studios should cut you a check.

Ive lost count of how many times I read one of your articles and then say "oh i need to have a copy of that" and bounce on over to amazon or iTunes to buy I just did !

3:53 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home
  • December 2005
  • January 2006
  • February 2006
  • March 2006
  • April 2006
  • May 2006
  • June 2006
  • July 2006
  • August 2006
  • September 2006
  • October 2006
  • November 2006
  • December 2006
  • January 2007
  • February 2007
  • March 2007
  • April 2007
  • May 2007
  • June 2007
  • July 2007
  • August 2007
  • September 2007
  • October 2007
  • November 2007
  • December 2007
  • January 2008
  • February 2008
  • March 2008
  • April 2008
  • May 2008
  • June 2008
  • July 2008
  • August 2008
  • September 2008
  • October 2008
  • November 2008
  • December 2008
  • January 2009
  • February 2009
  • March 2009
  • April 2009
  • May 2009
  • June 2009
  • July 2009
  • August 2009
  • September 2009
  • October 2009
  • November 2009
  • December 2009
  • January 2010
  • February 2010
  • March 2010
  • April 2010
  • May 2010
  • June 2010
  • July 2010
  • August 2010
  • September 2010
  • October 2010
  • November 2010
  • December 2010
  • January 2011
  • February 2011
  • March 2011
  • April 2011
  • May 2011
  • June 2011
  • July 2011
  • August 2011
  • September 2011
  • October 2011
  • November 2011
  • December 2011
  • January 2012
  • February 2012
  • March 2012
  • April 2012
  • May 2012
  • June 2012
  • July 2012
  • August 2012
  • September 2012
  • October 2012
  • November 2012
  • December 2012
  • January 2013
  • February 2013
  • March 2013
  • April 2013
  • May 2013
  • June 2013
  • July 2013
  • August 2013
  • September 2013
  • October 2013
  • November 2013
  • December 2013
  • January 2014
  • February 2014
  • March 2014
  • April 2014
  • May 2014
  • June 2014
  • July 2014
  • August 2014
  • September 2014
  • October 2014
  • November 2014
  • December 2014
  • January 2015
  • February 2015
  • March 2015
  • April 2015
  • May 2015
  • June 2015
  • July 2015
  • August 2015
  • September 2015
  • October 2015
  • November 2015
  • December 2015
  • January 2016
  • February 2016
  • March 2016
  • April 2016
  • May 2016
  • June 2016
  • July 2016
  • August 2016
  • September 2016
  • October 2016
  • November 2016
  • December 2016
  • January 2017
  • February 2017
  • March 2017
  • April 2017
  • May 2017
  • June 2017
  • July 2017
  • August 2017
  • September 2017
  • October 2017
  • November 2017
  • December 2017
  • January 2018
  • February 2018
  • March 2018
  • April 2018
  • May 2018
  • June 2018
  • July 2018
  • August 2018
  • September 2018
  • October 2018
  • November 2018
  • December 2018
  • January 2019
  • February 2019
  • March 2019
  • April 2019
  • May 2019
  • June 2019
  • July 2019
  • August 2019
  • September 2019
  • October 2019
  • November 2019
  • December 2019
  • January 2020
  • February 2020
  • March 2020
  • April 2020
  • May 2020
  • June 2020
  • July 2020
  • August 2020
  • September 2020
  • October 2020
  • November 2020
  • December 2020
  • January 2021
  • February 2021
  • March 2021
  • April 2021
  • May 2021
  • June 2021
  • July 2021
  • August 2021
  • September 2021
  • October 2021
  • November 2021
  • December 2021
  • January 2022
  • February 2022
  • March 2022
  • April 2022
  • May 2022
  • June 2022
  • July 2022
  • August 2022
  • September 2022
  • October 2022
  • November 2022
  • December 2022
  • January 2023
  • February 2023
  • March 2023
  • April 2023
  • May 2023
  • June 2023
  • July 2023
  • August 2023
  • September 2023
  • October 2023
  • November 2023
  • December 2023
  • January 2024
  • February 2024
  • March 2024
  • April 2024
  • May 2024